The same day the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, anti-choice states started enacting trigger laws and other pre-Roe v. Wade bans.
Missouri and Texas were the first two states to swiftly ban abortion in the wake of the ruling. Trigger bans in Louisiana, South Dakota and Kentucky immediately went into effect after the ruling came down. After certain state officials certified that Roe v. Wade had been overturned, Arkansas and Oklahoma trigger bans went into effect after the ruling came down. Oklahoma’s trigger ban went into effect despite the state already having a full abortion ban in place that deputized private citizens to enforce it.
All of the bans recently put in place have no exceptions for rape or incest ― only an exception if the life of the mother is at risk, although pro-choice experts point out that the language around these types of exceptions is vague.
States including Alabama and West Virginia have not yet fully outlawed abortion, but they do have abortion bans on the books that predated the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It’s unclear how or when they will be implemented, forcing many clinics to stop services altogether to avoid risk of prosecution of the clinic, staff or their patients.
Other states, like Virginia, Montana and Tennessee, are not far behind: Many lawmakers are calling to swiftly enact abortion restrictions in the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling.
More than 11.5 million women of reproductive age no longer have access to abortion care in the seven states that banned abortion on Friday. That number doesn’t include many nonbinary and genderqueer people who are able to get pregnant and will also no longer have access to these services.
South Dakota’s last abortion clinic was forced to pause services ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, anticipating the fall of Roe. Dr. Sarah Traxler, the chief medical officer and abortion provider for Planned Parenthood North Central States, told reporters that she flew in from her home state of Minnesota to South Dakota twice a month to provide care.
Now, she hopes the patients she traveled to South Dakota for can reach her in Minnesota.
“Last week, when we performed our last abortion, I was the physician there, and the last patient I saw had a story very similar to most patients I see. She was a young mother, she already had children, she was struggling to make ends meet and couldn’t imagine bringing another child into that circumstance,” said Traxler. “Thankfully, she was able to make decisions about her life and her family that were right for her.”
“I’ve seen countless women like this throughout my career, and unfortunately for the women of South Dakota, this is no longer a reality. They are now subject to the opinions of legislators who are not impacted by this decision,” she added.
Minutes after the decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was handed down, Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt was the first to ban abortion based on the Dobbs decision. Schmitt issued his opinion minutes after the ruling, triggering Missouri’s anti-abortion law.
“Today, the overruling of Roe and Casey permits Missouri to renew its proud pro-life traditions and restore basic legal protection for the most fundamental of human rights — the right to life,” Schmitt wrote.
As of 2020, there were just over 1.1 million women of childbearing age (between 15 and 44 years old) in Missouri. In seconds, Schmitt’s opinion took away vital health care from over 1 million Missourians.
Missouri’s abortion ban has no exceptions for rape or incest ― only an exception if the life of the mother is at risk. The trigger law makes it a felony to induce an abortion, which carries a prison sentence of five to 15 years.
The state has one abortion clinic left, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. It’s unclear if the clinic will have to close or just stop providing abortion care and continue with other health care services.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) tweeted that “abortion is now illegal in Texas.” Although the state’s trigger law takes effect 30 days after a Supreme Court judgment (which is simply a more formal document that will be published after today’s ruling) there are also pre-Roe abortion bans on the books in Texas.
Paxton seems to be referencing the pre-Roe bans, according to a Friday morning statement in which he explained that “some prosecutors may choose to immediately pursue criminal prosecutions based on violations of Texas abortion prohibitions predating Roe that were never repealed by the Texas Legislature.”
The Texas attorney general added that he will be closing his office today to make it an annual holiday, “as a memorial to the 70 million lives lost [because] of abortion.”
Texas had already severely restricted abortion access back in September when lawmakers enacted a six-week ban that deputized private citizens to enforce the law. Many abortion clinics in the Lone Star State were forced to restrict their services due to the ban, but after Friday’s ruling, almost all will be forced to close their doors.
“Our Texas teams on the ground have definitely had the hardest jobs today, of actually looking patients in the face who are in the clinic for their appointments today and letting them know they were not able to continue seeing them,” said Marva Sadler, the senior director of clinical services at Whole Woman’s Health, which has nine clinics across the U.S. ― four in Texas.
The clinics in Texas have been bracing for the end of Roe for weeks now, Sadler said. So much so that they had a predetermined last day of work for all clinic staff who will inevitably lose their jobs.
Sadler and other clinic staff have been advised that there will be some legal challenge to Paxton’s rule that a pre-Roe ban is still in effect in Texas. Hopefully, Sadler said, they will get some more time to provide care before the trigger ban goes into full effect.
“I’m not sure what the next few days or weeks will look like in Texas. If we’re able to provide care, we will,” she said. “We definitely know the inevitable, which is that we will have to close the clinics.”
“Teams on the ground have definitely had the hardest jobs today, of actually looking patients in the face who are in the clinic for their appointments today and letting them know they were not able to continue seeing them.”
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery doesn’t want to wait the 30 days for his state’s trigger ban to take effect. Slatery asked Tennessee’s federal appeals courts to lift an injunction on a six-week abortion ban that has been caught up in lower courts. He asked the court to grant the emergency motion “as soon as possible.”
“As the Supreme Court recognized in Dobbs, the State has a valid interest in protecting the lives of unborn Tennesseans,” Slatery said in his filing. “Those lives are at risk each day the preliminary injunction remains in place, so this Court should grant the State’s motion as soon as possible.”
Despite abortion not technically being illegal in Alabama just yet, Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement that he plans to make a pre-Roe abortion ban enforceable. Because of this, abortion clinics like West Alabama Women’s Clinic were forced to turn away every patient seeking an abortion in order to protect the clinic and their patients from possible prosecution.
“Every single one of those patients that were in the clinic today ― all 21 of them ― were told that unfortunately they are no longer going to get an abortion at all in the state of Alabama and that all we could do was help them try to book appointments in other states,” said Robin Marty, the operations director at West Alabama Women’s Center.
Alabama state law required that people seeking abortions visit a clinic twice in order to get the procedure. The first appointment involves a state-mandated ultrasound and counseling. Forty-eight hours after that first appointment, a patient can come back to the clinic and get their abortion pills or a procedure. Many of Marty’s patients had already had their first visit but, after Friday’s decision, won’t be able to come back for the second appointment to get their abortion.
“That was just today’s patients,” she added. “We still have to make at least 100 more of those calls in order to talk to every person who had their first-day appointments already and are waiting for their procedures or pills next week.”
Lawmakers in Montana are already calling for the state’s Supreme Court to overturn its abortion protections. Republican leaders in the legislature, state Sen. Mark Blasdel (R) and state Rep. Sue Vinton (R), released a statement celebrating the Dobbs decision and called on state judges to follow the Supreme Court’s lead.
“As the debate over abortion shifts to the states, all eyes in Montana need to be on our own judicial branch of government,” they wrote. “Montana judges should rule based on the text of our state constitution, which doesn’t mention abortion at all, and overturn the activist and erroneous Armstrong decision.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who was noticeably quiet about his anti-choice views before being elected last year, released a statement that Virginians want “fewer abortions, not more abortions,” although polling shows the opposite. Youngkin said he asked four Republican state lawmakers to immediately start working on legislation to enact a 15-week abortion ban ― similar to laws in Mississippi and Florida.
It was widely known that if Roe fell, at least 26 states would immediately ban or restrict abortion. Thirteen states, including Missouri, have trigger laws, while another five have pre-Roe abortion bans that are still on the books and likely to be resurrected. Four states are expected to severely restrict abortion by only allowing the procedure to be performed before or around the six-week point.
The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was handed down just after 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday morning. The opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was in line with the draft ruling published by Politico in early May that revealed the conservative majority was poised to overturn Roe.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito wrote for the majority. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely ― the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The Dobbs case centered on a 2018 15-week abortion ban out of Mississippi. While most expected the court to repeal Roe after the leaked draft, the high court could have ruled against the Mississippi restriction and kept federal abortion protections as they were or the court could have moved the federal gestational limit from 24 to 15 weeks. For pro-choice advocates, this outcome was the worst.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion clinic left in Mississippi, will remain open until at least July 4. After that, a 2007 trigger law will go into effect making abortion illegal and closing it down.
More on the Supreme Court abortion ruling:
- Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, dismantling decades-old precedent
- Roe overturned: The fight begins
- Abortion is now illegal in these states
- Liberal justices dissent with “sorrow” for “millions of American women”
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We have to fill the streets”
- Clarence Thomas: Cases protecting gay marriage and contraception should be next
- Republicans make it clear they want to ban abortion nationwide
- Donald Trump praises SCOTUS decision
- West Coast states launch a plan to protect out-of-state abortion patients
- Here’s how the world is reacting to the end of Roe